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A massive cyber attack caused disruption across Europe on Tuesday, but hackers appeared to specifically target Ukrainian government offices, infrastructure and key businesses.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said the country was reeling from an “unprecedented” wave of cyber attacks, but added that the most important computer systems had not been affected.
“It was an unprecedented attack, but our IT experts are doing their job and protecting the critical infrastructure. Important systems have not been affected,” Groysman said in a Facebook post.
UK-based WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, said it was among several companies hit by the attack. APM Terminals, a subsidiary of Dutch shipping giant Maersk, said 17 of its shipping container terminals around the world were hacked.
Russian steelmaker Evraz and major oil producer Rosnet have also reported large-scale problems with their computer systems, although Evraz said its production is unaffected.
Cyberattack-related disruptions have also been reported in France, Norway and the United States.
Ukrainian public institutions and businesses linked to the Kiev government, however, seemed to bear the brunt of the multi-pronged digital assault.
Electricity network, airport affected
An adviser to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov also took to Facebook to say that the cyberattack was the worst in Ukraine’s history, adding that he believed it came from Russia.
Councilor Anton Gerashchenko said that a version of the “WannaCry” ransomware caused crashes on government websites and those of several companies.
WannaCry is the virus that blocked more than 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries in May.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko said the government’s computer network was down and posted on Twitter a photo of a computer screen displaying an error message.
The manager of Kyiv Boryspil Airport said his computer system was affected by the attack and some flights were delayed as a result.
Ukraine’s national electricity distributor Ukrenergo and state-owned aircraft manufacturer Antonov were also victims of hacks, although Ukrenergo said the disruption had no impact on the power supply or its broader operations.
The central bank also said a number of commercial banks and public and private enterprises had been hit by an “unknown” computer virus, while expressing “confidence” in its cyber defenses.
“As a result of these cyber attacks, these banks are having difficulty with customer service and performing banking operations,” the central bank said in a statement.
The latest disruption follows a spate of hacking attempts on the state’s websites in Ukraine in late 2016 and repeated attacks on its power grid that prompted security chiefs to call for improved cyber defenses.
Ukraine blamed Russia for previous cyberattacks, including one on its power grid in late 2015 that temporarily left part of western Ukraine without power.
Cyber security experts consider Russia to be one of the most advanced cyber powers in the world, along with the United States, China, Israel, France and Britain.
Relations between Kiev and the Kremlin collapsed in 2014 following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, where fighting continues despite an agreement of cease-fire.
Russia, however, denies carrying out cyber attacks against Ukraine and claims that it fueled the eastern conflict by providing the rebels with troops and weapons.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AP)